SeaWorld has decided to remove the prototype deep-water lifting floor from all of the three SeaWorld parks. These lifting floors, which were still in their testing phase, were installed more than 4 years ago and intended as another safety tool for conducting in-water desensitization training in the deeper pools. The change comes on the heels of a decision by Cal/OSHA, California's Occupational Safety and Health Agency) to dismiss citations related to the orca training program.
In dismissing the citations, Cal/OSHA issued a special order based largely on the existing safety protocol, allowing trainers to continue with the in-water desensitization training program, which has been in place since 2012, in the medical (or husbandry) pool, as well as conduct interactions with the whales in the pools’ slide-out and stage areas.
Having safely and successfully conducted in-water desensitization training in the shallower medical pool for almost 4 years, the deep-water pool lifting floors are no longer needed. Work has already begun at SeaWorld Orlando as part of the annual maintenance work in at Shamu Stadium. Work at the San Antonio and San Diego parks will begin in the coming weeks.
The lifting floors located in the medical pools, where the orca in-water desensitization training currently takes place, will not be affected. That training will continue as an essential part of their overall safety program. Additionally, this change will provide more space for the animals, and increase the time that the deep-water pool is available by eliminating downtime for maintenance and cleaning.
Over the last 5 years or so, SeaWorld has overhauled its safety program at Shamu Stadium and has invested significant resources in their facilities and equipment, all of which are designed to enhance the already safe environment for the whales and the zoological professionals working in their environment.
Some of these enhancements include the development and implementation of revised interaction protocols; the development of compressed air safety belts worn by trainers working with the orcas; the design and installation of removable rails to be used during certain interactions; the implementation of a new communications system and the installation of improved communication devices, and modifications to the stadium to name a few.